The UK Government has today announced a new Consumer Rights Bill which aims to streamline confusing and overlapping legislation and regulation as well as provide stronger consumer protection.
But whilst the Bill updates the law for goods and services (including digital content), clarifies the law on unfair contract terms, consolidate powers for Trading Standards.
The Consumer Rights Bill also provides stronger protection against misleading aggressive sales practices. It must support UK competitiveness, enterprise and innovation.
Consumer Minister Edward Davey said:
“Consumer law in the UK comes from a variety of Acts and regulation, making it complex and confusing. This is bad for consumers and bad for business as people don’t know their rights and the cost of compliance for business is higher than necessary.”
E RADAR’s Will Roebuck said:
"Online consumer confidence is essential to economic growth so UK businesses must get behind these proposals now. There are some horrendous business practices out there that actually stop genuine, trusted businesses from providing goods and services competitively, and these only serve to damage the UK’s long-term economic recovery."
"It’s essential that the UK’s online digital economy is well represented in any discussions with government, not only by large corporates, but so that the views of small and medium-sized businesses can also be taken into account”, Will said.
But these new proposals must be put into the context of the European Union where political agreement has been in stalemate for some time over the introduction of a Consumer Rights Directive which would eventually need implementing in the UK . The issues being raised are highly complex and often throw up some very difficult discussions between business and consumer rights groups. Presumably the new Consumer Rights Bill is part of that transposition process, albeit an early attempt. We must avoid the usual legal and regulatory quad-mire that comes with not understanding the short-comings of laws and regulations upon a dynamic and fast-moving online economy.
Legislators across Europe have already failed to deal effectively with increasing cross border e-commerce, an issue highlighted by a Commission report from 2009 which revealed that up to 60% online transactions fail for one reason or another. This is a damning statistic on the state of the European Single Market and current legal and regulatory measures already in place.
The way forward
The Government intends the Bill to bring together consumer rights currently found in 12 Acts or Regulations and the incoming Consumer Rights Directive. It will be in simple English, making it easier for consumers and businesses to understand what is a complex and inconsistent area of law.
By consolidating consumer rights the Bill aims to substantially reduce red tape for businesses, which will in turn help the UK create the right conditions for sustainable economic growth.
What do you think?
E RADAR is interested to hear your views about the proposed Consumer Rights Bill and how you think it might affect your online business.